Sweat, Tears, or the Sea

The cure for anything is salt water: sweat, tears, or the sea – Isak Dinesen
Some of my most difficult moments have been spent next to the ocean. During many times of sadness and grief, I have been fortunate enough to escape to the sea. The hypnotic rhythm of the waves, the endless possibilities of the open ocean, the warmth of the sun on the sand – all of these provide a sense comfort that can be found in no other place.
In the short time I’ve lived in Oregon, both of my grandmothers have passed away. The sense of loss I felt was compounded by distance from family and the inability to be there to grieve with them. One day, I woke up and was no longer someone’s granddaughter and would never again get to speak to or learn from the two amazing women I called Granny.
The weekend after the death of my second grandmother, I needed a way to process the loss; I needed to remember and I needed to grieve. If I could not be with family, I wanted to be alone. And I also wanted to be comforted, so I did what I had done before: I sought out the sea.
IMG_3757
I spent the day hiking 10-miles along the Oregon Coast Trail – from Sunset Bay State Park to Cape Arago and back. Of course, I planned to hike about 8.5 miles, but I got turned around a couple of times.
IMG_3768
And perhaps at one point, I walked for a while along a “trail” that was not the trail (in my defense, it looked more like a trail than did the actual trail and the directional arrow on the sign was rather ambiguous). Often, the view was obscured due to fog, but the ocean was no less lovely. The crash of the waves, the bark of the sea lions, and the sound of my own footsteps provided the soundtrack as I hiked and remembered and lovingly, if lonelily, celebrated the lives of two incredible women.
I began my hike at Sunset Bay.
IMG_3841
I then continued through the gardens at Shore Acres State Park.
IMG_3805
I finally arrived at Cape Arago where I stopped for an oceanside picnic. Then I made my way back along the coast to return to Sunset Bay.
IMG_3777
IMG_3796
IMG_3800
I was most amazed by the waves – such incredible power and mesmerizing beauty.
IMG_3825
IMG_3813
The coastline reminded me of the Alaskan coastline my Granny Smith so loved – a place that stayed in her soul throughout the decades she lived in landlocked Arkansas. As I walked through blackberry bushes, I recalled childhood hours spent picking blackberries so my Granny Tyree could make her unmatched blackberry cobbler. Well, at least she could if my brothers and I brought back enough berries after eating as many as we could stand. Despite being in a new and unfamiliar place, the sea provided a constant backdrop against which I could locate the familiar and find traces of my grandmothers. My hike along the coast gave me the space and place to grieve.
At the end of the hike, I was tired both emotionally and physically, but I wasn’t ready to go home. I wasn’t ready to leave the crash of the waves and the possibilities of the ocean behind me. So for a while, I just sat, sat and watched the waves, feeling so thankful for the 30 years of my life that were shaped by my grandmothers, thankful that the cure to be found in the sea was only a short drive away.
When anxious, uneasy, and bad thoughts come, I go to the sea, and the sea drowns them out with its great wide sounds, cleanses me with its noise, and imposes a rhythm upon everything in me that is bewildered and confused. -Rainer Maria Rilke

The Other Side of Fear

The greatest mistake you can make in life is to be continually fearing you will make one. – Elbert Hubbard

This quote was recently featured in my planner. I may have mentioned how much I love my planner. Not only does the best planner ever (a statement made in response to a single case study – I’m fairly certain there has yet to be any empirical research into the issue of best planner ever, but perhaps there should be) remind me to be grateful, it also provides some daily inspiration. On this particular day, it was a relevant reminder that I have committed to not allow fear to be something that drives my decisions. That is a commitment I have made in a number of areas in my life, but because this blog is supposed to be about travel, I thought I would confess how I have recently allowed fear to prevent me from pursuing something that is important to me. And what I am doing about it.

I currently have two free hotel nights that will expire in January. I also happen to have enough frequent flier miles for a free flight. In other words, I could take a practically free long weekend trip if I wanted. And yet, I keep putting off scheduling something. I have been seconds away from booking a flight or making a hotel reservation, but have not followed through. As I have considered what is holding me back, I have realized it is essentially fear, specifically the following two fears:

  • That something “better” will come along. I worry that the second I book something, a better deal will be available or I will suddenly want to go to an entirely different destination than the one I have chosen. Or even that if I go somewhere, I will somehow miss out on something at home.
  • That I will be alone. This may sound strange coming from someone who just moved across the country alone, but I have never really travelled alone with the exception of one or two conferences. This is all new territory. I worry that I will not enjoy it because I am nervous about being alone or that my sometimes indecisive nature will emerge and I will end up sitting in my hotel room eating delivery pizza because I could not decide what I wanted to eat for dinner. Oh, and then there is the small fact that I sometimes manage to get lost even in familiar places, so getting lost in a new place is pretty much guaranteed.

If I continue to listen to these fears, I will be paralyzed and never go anywhere. I will never have the opportunity to discover what it is like to travel solo. I will certainly not experience the thrill of exploring somewhere I have never been. Perhaps even more importantly, I will be further away from the kind of life I want to live. So what can I do about it?

  • I can just book something. The reality is that I hope my life includes travel to many different places. I am not missing out on one place by going to another – I am simply making a choice to go somewhere. Hopefully I have a lifetime in which to explore the world and if I am meant to go to a place, then the opportunity will come along one day. Meanwhile, I can choose to enjoy the place where I am. Ultimately, going anywhere is infinitely better than going nowhere.
  • I can remind myself that the trip will be what I make it. Of course there are always things that can go wrong, but my attitude when those unpleasant things happen will determine whether it is a catastrophe or a minor setback that makes the (hopefully fun) rest of the trip that much more enjoyable. I can choose to sit in my hotel eating takeout or I can push myself out of my comfort zone a little bit to go out and try the great new restaurant in town. I can embrace the possibility of being lost while being open to discovering something I would never have experienced otherwise. I may not always get to choose the things that happen, but I am able to choose how I respond to them.
  • I can give myself the opportunity to learn what it is like on the other side of fear by starting small(er). Although I could certainly conquer my fear by doing something drastic like booking a trip to Europe, perhaps it makes a bit more sense to just put my toes in the water by taking a trip to somewhere a bit closer (ahhh, the age old psychologist argument of graduated exposure versus flooding…). Then the next time, I can feel more comfortable (or at least less uncomfortable) doing something a little bigger.

Regardless of where I end up going, the important thing is that I go – that I do not allow the fear of making a mistake or having a bad time or being alone be what keeps me from doing something that I love. So, I began this week with a single intention: to make a specific plan (yes, this means actually making a reservation) to take a trip to somewhere, anywhere. What I have planned is nothing exotic or faraway (there is not even a plane involved), but includes many of the things that I love: hiking, great restaurants, and maybe even a museum. In the end, it does not matter where I go; what matters is that I go.

Does anyone else ever struggle with fear? I would love to hear how others have pursued important goals despite fear!